ELIZABETHTON — It wasn't nearly as dramatic and didn't come in the NFL playoffs, but Ethan Thomas' 42-yard touchdown run sure looked a lot like Marshawn Lynch's famous beast-mode offering a couple years ago.
Thomas' stunning run came on the last play of the first half and was the catalyst for a second-half domination in Elizabethton's 35-0 pounding of Daniel Boone in the high school football season opener for both teams Friday night at Rider Field.
It was an eye-opening overall performance for the Cyclones, who outgained Boone 436-107 and authored a defensive performance that seemed improbable after a lackluster preseason.
“We challenged the kids in the newspaper about their effort, and they really responded,” said Cyclones' head coach Shawn Witten. “The kids played phenomenal.”
Boone actually played a competitive first half, but the Trailblazers could not shake off the effects of Thomas' run — which left them in a two-touchdown hole instead of 7-0 at the break.
With 5.5 seconds left in the first half, Witten called timeout and planned a special play from Boone's 42-yard line. When he saw Boone's defensive alignment, he changed to a run — basically just a play to end the half.
Thomas took the ball, and bowled his way up the middle. With Boone defenders left in his wake, he broke to the sideline. It still appeared unlikely he would score, and time had already expired.
But Thomas kept battling, and Boone couldn't bring him down. He didn't have an answer for how many tackle attempts he ran through.
“I don't know,” said Thomas with a smile. “I didn't count. The line blocked great, opened a hole, and I went through it and scored. We just needed a spark, and the line did it, not me.”
Thomas rushed for 161 yards in the first half alone, and finished with 16 carries for 224 yards and two touchdowns.
“He's a really special athlete,” said Boone head coach Jeremy Jenkins. “One thing he does better than any back I've seen is he runs through contact.”
But this victory was more than just a heavy dose of Thomas. The Cyclones' controlled the line of scrimmage all night, and the defense limited Boone to 95 yards rushing on 38 carries. They also roughed up the Trailblazers for five quarterback sacks, totaling 38 yards of losses.
Senior defensive end Jon Webb picked up three of those sacks.
“Everybody kept doubting us, but we proved everybody wrong,” said Webb. “It was the performance we wanted to show, and I think we made a statement.”
Said Witten, “We had guys flying around and making plays. Our defense played phenomenal.”
The Cyclones' offense sputtered a bit at the start, turning the ball over on downs at Boone's 25-yard line after a 13-play drive. Thomas burst out of the shadows of the end zone with a 61-yard run on the next possession, but it ended with a missed 38-yard field goal attempt.
The Cyclones fumbled in Boone territory on their third possession, but the Trailblazers handed it right back with a fake punt that lost three yards and gave the Cyclones the ball at Boone's 40.
Three plays later, quarterback Caleb Armstrong scampered 32 yards up the middle for the first score of the game, late in the second quarter.
“He is extremely fast,” said Witten.
Coming out of halftime, the Cyclones forced a Boone punt and then got a 41-yard touchdown run by Thomas to make it 21-0.
After a Boone fumble, Christian Glover finished off a six-play drive with a two-yard scoring run to make it 28-0.
Early in the fourth quarter, sophomore Jeremiah Turner made amends for the earlier fumble with a 36-yard touchdown scamper that included some nifty moves and a strong finish.
Overall, Witten said it was just a good night.
“Coach (Stan) Ogg had a great defensive game plan,” said Witten. “Coach (Jeff) Pierce had the guys ready to battle up front.”
However, it's a different animal next week as the Cyclones travel to face Science Hill.
“We've still got a long way to go to compete with them,” said Witten. “We've got to get a lot better before then.”